“Interchange,” “The Last Family” and “Glory” led early sales announcements at an ever more hectic Locarno Festival where “Moka” and “Paula” drew positive critical plaudits – boding well for break-out sales as top Locarno titles segue from the Swiss Alps to Toronto.
Harvey Keitel, Bill Pullman and Roger Corman collected career awards, lending an U.S. edge to an event which largely focuses on European arthouse and world cinema. The most significant industry presence was, however, that of Participant CEO David Linde who talked about his career as an independent producer and emphasised his belief – and that of Participant founder Jeff Skoll – in further growth in international markets as an estimated 5 billion people, largely in Asia and Africa, will come online for the first time in the next 5 years.
Attendance at Locarno’s Industry Days, which ran Aug. 6-8, came in at around 1,100, on a par with 2015, after sustained rapid growth since their inauguration in 2009.
Further expansion may now come outside the festival. Already consolidating as Europe’s biggest big fest industry exec think tank, via its Step-In panels and work group discussion platforms, Locarno confirmed this week its fifth Locarno Industry Academy International, after events at Locarno itself, New York’s Lincoln Center, Mexico’s Morelia Fest and the Cinema do Brasil Boutique Cinema mini-mart.
Targeting sales, distribution and exhibition execs – a market focus which runs through Locarno industry events – the fourth Locarno International Academy will unspool Nov. 7-11 during Greece’s Thessaloniki Festival, the country’s main movie event.
Negotiations on many main Locarno Piazza Grande titles – Frederic Mermoud’s drama-thriller “Moka,” sold by Pyramide Intl, and The Match Factory-sold “Paula,” a bio of trail-blazing German painter Paula Modersohn-Becker, both of which drew upbeat reviews – will only really kick in as buyers return to their offices and will stretch well beyond Toronto. Others Locarno movies, such as Films Distrbution’s “Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe” and the Beta Cinema-sold “Vincent and the End of the World,” still have to run the critical gauntlet at Locarno or at least engender international reviews.
So major industry news at Locarno cuts other ways: Sales on select fest players, often screening in its first days; Locarno title sales agent pick-ups; production announcements; acquisitions on titles at Venice or Toronto, as sales agents seek to position new bets at Locarno before the biggest of pre-fall fest markets.
In this sense, news was legion. As this year’s Locarno headed towards its final straits early Wednesday, Paris-based Reel Suspects confirmed that “Interchange,” a supernatural nourish procedural with sci-fi elements from Malaysia’s Dain Iskander Said had closed Spain at Locarno with Luis Bellaba’s Film Buro Producciones Internacionales. Reel Suspects has also licensed Switzerland (Preasens Film) and Taiwan (Deltamac). GSC Movies handles domestic theatrical distribution in Malaysia. Germany is in negotiation; “Interchange” is sparking “a lot of interest in France,” Reel Suspects’ Matteo Lovadina reported.
Produced by Aurum Film, in co-production with HBO Europe, the Mazovia Film Fund, Lightcraft and Universal Music Poland, Locarno competition entry “The Last Family” was sold by New Europe Film Sales to Sweden’s Folkets Bio. NEFS is now negotiating deals for France and the U.S., said CEO Jan Naszewski. “Family’s” Polish distributor Kino Swiat plans a hefty release for an arthouse movie on around 200 screens with a $250,000 P & A spend, he added.
The fiction debut of Poland’s Jan Matusynski, “The Last Family” is inspired by the true story of surrealist painter Zdzisław Beksiński’s following his family life for 28 years as he paints and lives in a crummy Warsaw flat.
Title looks set to stoke further talk of Poland as a new talent hothouse, many of its biggest-name new directors segueing into fiction from documentary, like Matusynski. It is no coincidence that Locarno’s First Look, a pix-in-post showcase won by Rwandan genocide portrait “Birds Are Singing in Kigali,” from Joanna Kos-Krauze and Krzysztof Krauze (““Papusza”), was dedicated this year to Polish Cinema.
Usually more refined arthouse items, Locarno’s international competition contenders are often harder sells. But “Glory,” also in competition, may buck that trend. It certainly looks set to do nothing to damage the reputation of co-directors Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov for incisive, damning social observation of contemporary Bulgaria.
In first sales on “Glory,” clinched by Loic Magneron’s Wide Management, I Wonder has closed Italy, Filmarti bought Turkey, Arti Film picked up Benelux, Bounty Films acquired Australia/New Zealand and JSC Europos Kinas secured rights to Lithuania.
“The film quietly builds to a feeling of inexorable disaster, guided by terrific performances as well as spot-on editing,” Variety’s Jay Weissberg wrote of “Glory.”
Directors’ fest-laurelled debut, “The Lesson,” proved an standout sales title for Wide Management.
In pre-sales, “Stefan Zweig,” German actress-director Maria Schrader’s portrait of the novelist’s final exile in Brazil and New York, will be released in France by ARP. Films Distribution has closed Spain (Caramel Films), Brazil (Esfera Culturas), Denmark (Camera Film), as well as Greece (Videorama), Portugal (Alambique) and former-Yugoslavia (MCF Megacom).
Bowing in Austria (via Filmladen) on July 15 and Germany, with X-Verleigh distributing, five days later, “Zweig” earned a bullish two-country €1.79 million ($2.0 million) through July 31.
Also striking promising pre-sales, coming-of-age dramedy “Vincent and the End of the World,” from Belgian Christophe Van Rompaey – whose “Moscow, Belgium” swept Cannes Critics’ Week in 2008 – has closed France (ARP Selection), Belgium (Paradiso Filmed Ent.) and Switzerland (Cineworx). Further deals on the Alexandra Lamy starrer, most particularly to Germany, are under negotiations, said Thorsten Ritter, at “Vincent” sales agent Beta Cinema.
Among new Locarno fest entry acquisitions, Paris-based Luxbox added Locarno competition player “By the Time It Gets Dark,” from Thailand’s Anocha Suwichakornpong, to the prior-announced “Marija,” helmed by Switzerland’s Michael Koch, which also contends for Locarno’s Golden Leopard.
Of Venice pick-ups, Films Boutique revealed three titles: ‘Heartstone,’ from Iceland’s Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson; ‘Guilty Men,’ directed by Colombia’s Ivan D. Gaona, both debuts; plus Lav Diaz’s “The Woman Who Left.” M-Appeal will handle “4 Days in France,” by French freshman Jerome Reybaud.
In further business, Film Movement announced acquisition of North America rights on “Harmonium,” Koji Fukada’s Un Certain Regard winner; Brazil’s Rodrigo Teixeira at RT Features and director Karim Aïnouz announced they are re-teaming on “The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmão.”
Launching multiple initiatives this decade, Locarno’s Industry Days may now have reached its optimum size with five programs overseen by four managers: Alliance For Development, a co-prod/networking meet; Industry Academy, a training facility; Locarno’s StepIn think tank; and its First Look pix-in-post showcase and producers’ Match Me! networking forum.
“Each activity interacts with the others with smooth coordination that allows the professionals to network and develop their business, considering that the Industry Days’ main goal is still promoting the films in the festival’s official selection,” Dresti said.